“DODSWORTH” (1936) Review

“DODSWORTH” (1936) Review

I might as well place my cards on the table. William Wyler has been one of my favorite Old Hollywood directors for as long as I can remember. One particular movie that had impressed me as a teenager and a woman in my 20s was his 1936 film, “DODSWORTH”. However, a good number of years had passed since I last saw it. Realizing this, I decided to view the movie again for a new assessment.

Based upon Sinclair Lewis’ 1929 novel and Sidney Howard’s 1934 stage adaptation, “DODSWORTH” tells the story of a Midwestern auto tycoon named Sam Dodsworth, who decides to sell his auto manufacturing plant and retire at the urging of his wife Fran. Feeling trapped by their small-town social life, Fran also convinces Sam to start off his retirement with a trip to Europe. Sam comes to regard the trip as an opportunity to see the sights. Fran has different ideas. She views the trip as an opportunity to escape her Midwestern life and enjoy the pleasures of European high society. She manages to achieve this with a succession of European Lotharios by her side. The different desires and expectations of the pair eventually fractures their marriage for good.

When all is said and done, “DODSWORTH” is basically a portrait of a failing marriage. A part of me wondered why“DODSWORTH” had never been filmed during Hollywood’s pre-Code era. Sinclair Lewis’ tale seemed aptly suited for that particular period in film history. I tried to remember how many movies I have seen or heard about a failing marriage and divorce and realized they were few in numbers. Another aspect of “DODSWORTH” I found interesting was director William Wyler and screenwriter Sidney Howard’s attempt to portray the Dodsworths’ marital breakup with as much maturity as possible. One could easily blame the Fran Dodsworth for the marriage’s eventual failure, due to the character’s vanity, infatuation with European high society and infidelity. But I read somewhere that both Wyler and Howard (especially the former) went out of their way to portray Fran with as much sympathy and complexity as possible – especially in the movie’s first half.

I do believe that Wyler, Howard and the movie’s cast did an excellent job in their attempt to create a realistic and mature film. I found scenes in the film that seemed to exemplify this attempt at mature melodrama. They include Ruth’s embarassing last conversation with Captain Clyde Lockert, the good-looking British Army officer she had flirted with aboard the ocean liner that took her and Sam to Europe; the Dodsworths’ last conversation before Sam returns to the U.S.; and their frank conversation about Fran’s affair with aging playboy Arnold Iselin upon Sam’s return to Europe. But the two best scenes – well shot by Wyler and superbly performed – featured Fran’s even more embarassing encounter with Baroness Von Obersdorf, the elderly mother of the young Baron Kurt Von Obersdorf, whom she wished to marry; and Sam and Fran’s last moment together in which the former decides to end their marriage permanently. Watching this movie, it was easy for me to see why “DODSWORTH” managed to earn seven Academy Award nominations – including a Best Director nomination for William Wyler and one for Best Picture.

Two of those nominations were for technical achievements. Richard Day not only earned a nomination for the movie’s art direction, he also won. And I could see why, especially in the images below:

Dodsworth_1936_Halton_Marlowe_H-4

Day’s work seemed to feature a clean, yet stylish look that was evocative of the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s.

At least two cast members earned Oscar nominations for their performances. Walter Huston earned a well-deserved nomination for his natural and down-to-earth portrayal of the very likeable and mature retired tycoon, Sam Dodsworth. A surprising Best Supporting Actress nomination was given to Maria Ouspenskaya in a small role as Baroness Von Obersdorf, the woman whom Fran Dodsworth hoped to call “mother-in-law”. I cannot deny that Ouspenskaya was very effective as the frank and no-nonsense German aristocrat who crushed Fran’s dreams of marriage to the younger Kurt Von Obersdorf. But I rather doubt if I would have considered her for an Oscar nomination. The movie also featured competent performances from Mary Astor, Kathryn Marlowe, John Payne, Spring Byington and Gregory Gaye. The two more memorable performances – at least for me – came from a young David Niven as the well-born British Army officer, who teaches Fran a lesson about flirtation and Paul Lukas as the much older Lothario, Arnold Iselin, who seemed amused by the chaos he causes within the Dodsworth marriage. But for me, Ruth Chatterton gave the best performance in the film. Despite the negative manner in which her character was written, her portrayal of the vain Fran Dodsworth provided the film with backbone, drive and a great deal of first-rate drama. “DODSWORTH” would be nothing without the Fran Dodsworth character . . . and Chatterton’s superb performance. And yet . . . the actress did not receive an Academy Award nomination.

In the end, “DODSWORTH” is a very well made movie. Actually, it is quite superbly made. I can see why it earned those seven Oscar nominations. But despite the excellent direction, acting and writing .. . I ended up hating this film. I hated the unbalanced portrayal of the Dodsworth marriage. I hated how the story placed all of the blame for the marriage’s failure on Fran. If Wyler was trying to portray Fran in a more flexible light, he and Sidney Howard failed miserably in the end. I hated how Howard’s screenplay portrayed Fran’s flaws in a serious light, whereas Dodsworth’s flaws – namely his own penchant for self-absorption at home – was portrayed as comic relief. I hated the fact that Sam Dodsworth ended up with a younger and more beautiful woman who seemed to be portrayed as an ideal woman, despite her divorce status. I especially hated the fact that Dodsworth was portrayed as a nearly ridiculously idealized character – the self made man who still adhered to good old-fashioned American values, while Fran was portrayed as an incredibly flawed woman who had failed to live up to American society’s ideal of a married woman.

I realize there are many women moviegoers who really enjoyed this film. But this is one woman who disliked it. And “DODSWORTH” might be one of the few William Wyler films I may never have a desire to watch again.

“CASHELMARA” (1974) Book Review

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“CASHELMARA” (1974) Book Review
My experiences with novels by Susan Howatch are rather limited. If I must be honest, I have only finished three of her novels. I tried reading two other novels – “THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT” (1977) and the first novel in The Starbridge Series, “GLITTERING IMAGES” (1987). However, I could not maintain any interest in the last two novels. Neither focused upon the history of an upper-class British family, which happened to be my main interest when I was in my late teens and early twenties.

One of the three novels I did finish was 1974’s “CASHELMARA”, a saga that focused upon an Anglo-Irish family called the De Salis. The story began in 1859 when Edward Baron de Salis journeyed to antebellum New York City to visit his late wife’s cousins, the Marriotts; and ends some 32 years later in 1891 with his grandson Edward, resorting to extraordinary means to regain control of the family’s Irish estate called Cashelmara. During this 32 year journey, readers become acquainted with six main characters and a fascinating cast of supporting characters that add to Howatch’s tale.

Before reading “CASHELMARA”, one has to understand that it is one of three novels that are based upon one of the British Royal Family’s royal houses – that of the Plantagenets. The 1971 novel, “PENMARRIC” focused on characters based upon the Plantagenet line that stretched from King Henry II to one of his younger sons, King John. However, Howatch skimped a generation and decided to continue her focus on the Plantagenet line with John’s grandson, King Edward I and finished the novel with a character based upon the latter’s grandson, King Edward III. “CASHELMARA” is divided into six segments. Those segments are narrated by the following characters:

*Edward, Baron de Salis – a middle-aged English aristocrat and owner of both Woodhammer Hall (in England) and Cashelmara (based upon King Edward I)
*Marguerite Marriott, Baroness de Salis – a 17-18 year-old adolescent from a wealthy New York family who becomes Edward’s second wife (based upon Margaret of France, later Edward I’s second consort)
*Patrick, Baron de Salis – Edward’s only surviving son, who loses Woodhammer Hall ten years after his father’s death via gambling debts (based upon King Edward II)
*Sarah Marriott, Baroness de Salis – Marguerite’s oldest niece and Patrick’s wife (based upon Isabella of France, later Edward II’s consort)
*Maxwell Drummond – an Irish tenant farmer on the Cashelmara estate, who becomes Sarah’s lover and Patrick’s enemy (based upon Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, Isabella’s lover)
*Edward “Ned”, Baron de Salis – Patrick and Sarah’s oldest son (based upon King Edward III)

Another aspect about “CASHELMARA” that Howatch fans might find fascinating is that “THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE”could be considered a direct sequel to the former novel. Remember . . . “CASHELMARA” ended with Ned as the novel’s narrator. And Ned is supposed to be based upon Edward III. “THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE” began with Robert Goodwin, who is based upon Edward the Black Prince, Edward III’s oldest son. Since Robert’s father was still alive in the first half of the 1984 novel, this means that Howatch based two characters on Edward III – Ned de Salis and “Bobby” Goodwin. Really, one might as well view “THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE” as more of a direct sequel to “CASHELMARA” than“PENMARRIC”. In fact, Bobby Goodwin’s background story in the 1984 novel is practically a re-enactment of what happened between Ned and his parents, Patrick and Sarah in “CASHELMARA”, but with a few changes.

How do I feel about “CASHELMARA”? I thought Howatch had created a very fascinating tale. On one level, she took a family saga and placed it within a setting that gave readers a look at how British Imperial policy worked in Ireland. And we saw this policy in motion via the viewpoint of an aristocratic family – except for the Maxwell Drummond character. And although there are many novels set within the British Empire – even in Ireland – “CASHELMARA” is probably the only one that I can recall that had been written by Howatch. More importantly, Howatch’s description of the Cashelmara estate left a stark image in my mind that I found rather interesting. It was interesting that half of the major characters regarded the Irish estate with a negative view. The other three major characters seemed to have different views of Cashelmara. Edward de Salis seemed to have a mixed view of the estate. Cashelmara reminded him of the period he had enjoyed as a child. Yet at the same time, it stood as a reminder of his failure to offer genuine help to his tenants during the Great Famine of the 1840s. Ironically, the de Salis family and their tenants would find themselves facing another famine over thirty years later. Maxwell Drummond seemed to regard Cashelmara as a symbol of his ambition to become a landowner and a gentleman. And he would try to achieve these goals through Sarah with disastrous results. As far as Ned de Salis was concerned, Cashelmara was his home, and a family legacy that he would go through great lengths to regain. After all, his father Patrick had lost the family’s English estate, Woodhammer Hall, sometime before his birth.

Most of the novel proved to be interesting in its own right. The first two segments – narrated by Edward de Salis and his second wife, Marguerite – also proved to be interesting. Howatch did an excellent job in painting a portrait of both antebellum New York City and mid-Victorian England at the end of the 1850s and into the 1860s. Readers got a peek into Edward’s fascination with his future bride, along with his the disappointment he felt regarding his children. But I especially enjoyed Marguerite’s narration. I found it interesting to read how this 18 year-old girl struggled to maintain a healthy and happy marriage with a man over thirty years her senior. Marguerite’s narration also revealed the struggles that she had to endure as an American in a foreign country. Between others – including her husband – making assumptions about her American nationality, dealing with the British high society’s reactions to the American Civil War, and struggling to act as a mediator between Edward and her stepchildren; the 1860s proved to be somewhat difficult for Marguerite. However, being a strong-willed young woman in her own right, she survived.

Also, I found “CASHELMARA” to be the most disturbing tale of the three family sagas written by the author. What made this novel so disturbing? It has to be the marriage between Patrick and Sarah de Salis. Howatch based their marriage on the lives of Edward II and his wife, Isabella. But from what I have read, the private lives of the Plantagenet monarch and his consort were not as disturbing as the marriage between Patrick and Sarah. The novel’s third segment, told from Patrick’s point-of-view, revealed their courtship and the first four years of their marriage. It also revealed how Sarah’s spending and especially Patrick’s gambling habits managed to dwindle away his fortune. Their financial problems had only added to the existing strain caused by Patrick’s continuing friendship with his childhood friend, Derry Stranahan. But the segment narrated by Sarah also proved to be the novel’s nadir in terms of what occurred and how low her marriage to Patrick had sunk. And for Sarah and Patrick, their marriage had sunk to alcoholism and loss of property for him; imprisonment and rape for her. Despite the ugliness that permeated Sarah’s segment, the latter also proved to be one of the two most interesting in the novel.

Like “THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE”, the novel’s last segment proved to be the most difficult for me. Narrated by Sarah and Patrick’s oldest child, Ned, I had some difficulty relating to the character. Perhaps Ned was simply too old. After all, he aged from thirteen to seventeen or eighteen years old during this last chapter. But I recall that one of the segments of“THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE” had been narrated by a character named Christopher “Kester” Goodwin, who aged from nine to nineteen years old. I had no problems with the Kester character from “THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE”, but I did with the Ned de Salis character. Why? Perhaps I did not find him that fascinating. Or perhaps I found his penchant to view his father as a hero, Maxwell Drummond as a villain and his mother as a stooge for Drummond a little too simple for me to stomach. I find it difficult to relate to characters who harbor one-dimensional views about life and other people. And because Howatch ensured that Ned never learned what his mother had endured at the hands of Patrick and the latter’s lover/estate manager, Hugh McGowan, I found my ability to relate to him even more difficult.

I have read some reviews of “CASHELMARA’ and discovered that a good number of readers managed to enjoy this family saga very much. Only a handful seemed to regard the characters as unsympathetic and not worthy of their interest. I believe that a first-rate author could create a sympathetic character with unpleasant traits, if he or she had a mind to do so. Susan Howatch certainly managed to create some very interesting characters – aside from one – for “CASHELMARA”. She also created a first-rate family saga that still remains fresh after forty-two years.

“With Harry Kim’s Compliments” [R] – 2/2

 

“WITH HARRY KIM’S COMPLIMENTS”

Part 2

B’Elanna could not sleep that night. Despite the hot shower and her exhausted state. Instead of blessed slumber, she found her thoughts besieged with images of Tom Paris in the shower. Naked.

A sigh escaped B’Elanna’s mouth and she shifted to the right side of her body. More images popped into her head. Reddish-blond chest hair, luxuriant and damp. Chest hair that covered a surprisingly muscular chest. Broad shoulders. A pair of legs that looked pale, but long and sturdy. The long and thick piece of flesh between his . . . B’Elanna sighed once more and shifted to her left.

Then she closed her eyes and to her consternation, relived those moments when she had burst into Harry’s shower. Within the deep recess of her mind, B’Elanna once again stripped off her uniform, strode toward the bathroom and opened the shower door. There stood Tom with rivulets of water pouring down his body. B’Elanna let out a gasp. Yet, instead of reacting in shock, Tom grabbed her by the waist and dragged her into the shower. He then forced his mouth upon her and began to explore it with a thoroughness that left B’Elanna trembling. Both examined each other’s bodies with hands and mouth. And before B’Elanna knew what had happened, Tom slammed her against the wall. He spread her legs and without missing a beat, thrust right into her . . .

B’Elanna’s eyes flew open and she sprung into a sitting position. She became aware of the pillow clutched to her chest. And the fact that she now laid flat on her back, with her legs spread wide open. An exasperated sigh left her mouth. Dammit! Will she ever get any sleep? Even more important, will she ever stop thinking of Tom Paris in the shower, naked?

* * * *

On Deck Four, another senior officer dreamed of the same incident from inside Harry Kim’s quarters. Unlike the Chief Engineer, Tom Paris seemed to enjoy it very much.

Tom recalled the eye-popping sight of a very naked B’Elanna Torres, standing outside Harry’s shower. It had seemed like a dream come true. And in Tom’s dream, like B’Elanna’s, events took a different course from what actually happened.

In Tom’s dream, B’Elanna opened the shower door. The two officers stared at each other in deep shock. And an embarrassed B’Elanna fled from the bathroom. But when Tom ran after her, he did not bother to wrap a towel around his waist. Instead, he caught up with B’Elanna in the living area, drew her into his arms and planted a long and passionate kiss upon her mouth.

Tom briefly stirred in his bed, as his dream continued its erotic course. He and B’Elanna soon found themselves exploring each other’s bodies with hands and kisses. Tom drew her down to the floor and continued his exploration of her body. It was not long before B’Elanna hinted that she wanted more than kisses. Tom gently spread her legs and finally entered her. He reveled in every thrust he gave, while B’Elanna inflicted scratches upon his backside. Scratches that mingled pain with pleasure. And when their lovemaking finally ended with an earth-shattering climax, Tom woke up.

It did not take a genius to guess why his sheets were damp. At least Tom knew why and immediately felt embarrassed. And since he had no desire to spend the rest of the night on those sheets, he slipped out of bed, tossed the sheets into the refresher and replicated new ones. Now, if only he could enjoy a good night’s sleep without dreaming of B’Elanna. But Tom also realized that he needed to speak with her, as soon as possible.

* * * *

The following morning, Tom headed straight to the Mess Hall for breakfast, hoping that he would also find B’Elanna. He was in luck. Not only was the Chief Engineer in the Mess Hall, she was alone, sitting at a corner table and staring at the stars beyond the viewport.

“B’Elanna?” She nearly jumped out of her seat when Tom called her name. He slid into the seat opposite her, ignoring the irritation that flashed in her eyes. “How are you doing, this morning?” he asked.

B’Elanna replied tersely, “Fine.”

“I understand that all of the showers are now working.” Dark eyes glanced sharply at Tom. Ooops! Wrong subject to bring up, he thought. Tom immediately tried to correct his faux pas. “Look B’Elanna, about last night . . .”

“As far as I’m concerned, it never happened.” B’Elanna’s gaze returned to the viewport.

Frustrated, Tom sighed. He hated it when the half-Klingon resorted to her usually “memory laspses” whenever she tried to avoid any particular topic. “It did happen, B’Elanna!” Tom retorted. “Harry gave us permission to use his shower at the same time, without realizing it. And we both saw each other . . . in the flesh. This is the 24th century. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Granted, you’ve got a great body, but yours is not the first naked one I’ve ever seen.” Tom paused, expecting a response – volcanic or otherwise.

Instead, B’Elanna’s dark eyes grew wide. “Great . . . I have a great body?” Her voice registered shock. Surprise. And she seemed a little flattered.

“Uh, yeah,” Tom replied softly. “One of the best I’ve ever . . .” Aware of the possibility of eavesdroppers, Tom bit off his last words. “Never mind. What I’m trying to say is that what happened last night is nothing to get upset over. We’re both adults. Surely we can handle seeing each other, naked. We should just accept that it happened and move on.”

A crimson flush crept up B’Elanna’s face. “Of course. You’re right. We should just move on.” She took a deep breath. “And by the way, you’ve got a . . .” Her face became even more flushed.

Tom’s eyes widened in anticipation of a compliment. “Yes?”

B’Elanna paused momentarily, before a slight smirk touched her lips. “I was about to say that you’ve got a pretty decent body, yourself.”

“Decent?” Tom frowned. Did she just say ‘decent’? “Is that all? Just decent?”

Innocence poured out of B’Elanna’s eyes. “Well, to be honest, Tom, you’re not exactly Ensign Larson. Or Ensign Murphy. Now, those two are really built. No wonder they’re popular . . .”

“Okay, I get the picture,” Tom grumbled. “Larson and Murphy. Thanks a lot.”

B’Elanna smiled. “My pleasure.” Her smile widened, as a pout formed on Tom’s lips. “Oh, come on, Tom. There’s no need to pout. You still have a nice body, all the same.”

“Just nice?” Tom gave B’Elanna the full impact of the Paris orbs. “Considering the way you were staring at me, I figured . . .”

The smile disappeared from B’Elanna’s lips. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. “Look here, Flyboy,” she growled, “I don’t recall staring at you or anyone else. So, I suggest you stop it right here and get the filth out of your mind.”

“What filth?” Tom allowed himself a brief smile.

B’Elanna added pointedly, “I’m already pissed at Harry for what happened. Don’t make me add you to my shit list.”

Harry. Tom almost forgot about the Operations Chief. Almost. “Speaking of Harry . . .”

“Yes?”

Tom continued, “Do you think he had deliberately set us up, last night?”

B’Elanna shook her head. “Not Starfleet. He might be naïve at times, but not suicidal. Besides, he did seem a bit tired.”

At that moment, Neelix approached their table, carrying a pot of coffee. Tom shot a glance at his cup and was relieved to find it already filled with replicated coffee. Which meant he would be spared from the Delta Quadrant variety, thank goodness.

“Hello, you two! Enjoying your morning meal?” Neelix’s orange eyes sparkled with life. He seemed to be in a good mood. Almost fey.

Tom stared at him. “What’s brightened your morning, Neelix?”

“You two,” the Talaxian replied. He offered B’Elanna some coffee, but the latter immediately shook her head. “Seeing you together like this, gives me hope for love.”

Tom and B’Elanna exchanged confused looks, before they stared at Neelix. “What are you talking about?” B’Elanna demanded.

“Well, the both of you. Sitting at breakfast together.” Neelix sat in the chair next to Tom. “Ensign Kim told me about his little matchmaking scheme for you two. He didn’t exactly give me any details, but he told me that by today, you would be a couple. And here you are.”

B’Elanna opened her mouth. And judging by her expression, Tom realized that she was about to display that famous temper of hers. He gave her a warning kick to the shin. Dark brown eyes blazed with near rage, as B’Elanna immediately closed her mouth. Tom ignored the look and said to Neelix, “We know all about Harry’s little scheme, Neelix. It didn’t work out.”

“Oh. Too bad.” The Talaxian looked disappointed. Then another idea came to him. “I hope you’re not to angry at Harry. He was only trying to help.”

Tom smiled. “We know. And we’re not angry.”

“Says you,” B’Elanna mumbled. Fortunately, only Tom overheard.

The pilot continued, “In fact, we confronted Harry about it, last night.”

“Oh. Oh, well. I guess some of us aren’t meant to be.” A brief sadness overshadowed his eyes. Tom realized that he was thinking of his aborted relationship with the ship’s medical assistant and only Ocampan. Tom gave Neelix a comforting squeeze on the shoulder, before the latter returned to galley.

Once the Talaxian was out of earshot, B’Elanna whirled upon the pilot with blazing eyes. “What the hell was that kick about?”

“To stop you from letting the cat out of the bag,” Tom calmly replied.

“The cat? What the hell are you talking about?

Tom explained that the moment Neelix had revealed Harry’s matchmaking scheme, he had thought of a way to pay back the young ensign. “And if Neelix knew how we felt, he might tell Harry. Get it?”

Silence ensued. B’Elanna gave Tom a thoughtful stare. “Oh, I see. Not only do you want to teach Harry a lesson, you want to surprise him, as well. And exactly what do you have in mind?”

A cold smile formed on Tom’s lips. “Something that involves a shower. Are you game?”

B’Elanna responded with her own cold smile.

* * * *

It was a happy Operations Chief who finally left the Bridge at the end of Alpha shift. After spending three days on double shifts to repair some of the ship’s systems, Harry felt more than happy to return to his regular schedule. He glanced forward and spotted Pablo Baytart at the Helm. Usually, Harry and Tom would usually accompany each other off the Bridge, but the latter had spent today’s shift giving courses on new flight maneuvers to the other pilots in the Conn Division.

Harry entered the turbolift and ordered the computer to send it to Deck Six. Minutes later, he arrived at his destination and stepped into the corridor. Harry could not wait to reach his quarters and enjoy a nice, long shower. Not a sonic shower, which he usually took in the morning rush; but a long shower with hot water.

Thinking of the shower reminded him of his little matchmaking scheme with Tom and B’Elanna. Much to Harry’s disappointment, it had ended in failure. Tom had reproached him over what happened at the beginning of Alpha shift, but Harry feigned surprise and innocence. He wanted to make sure that Tom or B’Elanna did not suspect him of any scheming on his part. Fortunately, both had believed the whole thing had been an accident and nothing more. He considered the pair to be his closest friends, and because of this, he was very familiar with their natures. Both tend to be volatile and vindictive, when crossed.

Right now, all seemed right with the world. Tom and B’Elanna had no idea that he had deliberately set them up. The ship’s systems were now fully operational. And that meant he no longer had to work double shifts. Feeling very satisfied, Harry finally reached his quarters.

Once inside, he removed his clothes and headed for the shower. “Computer,” he ordered, “initiate the water shower.” The computer complied and water immediately poured out of the shower head. Harry closed his eyes to enjoy the sensation of all that wetness sluicing down his body. Then something happened. The water no longer felt refreshing. Instead, it felt . . . thicker. Gritty. Harry opened his eyes and glanced at his arms. They were green. His arms were green! In fact, his entire body . . . Harry quickly examined his chest, legs and feet. All green!

The young ensign let out a bloodcurling scream and fled the shower. In his panic to reach Sick Bay, Harry raced out of his quarters without the benefit of a towel.

* * * *

Just minutes before Harry’s flight from his shower, his two best friends hovered in an alcove several feet away from his quarters. Close together. Too close, as far as B’Elanna was concerned.

“Listen Tom, could you please not stand so close to me?” she groused in a low voice. “There’s barely any room, here.”

Tom heaved an exasperated sigh. “I’m sorry for the lack of space, but we wouldn’t be suffering from all this crowding if you hadn’t insisted upon hiding here.”

“Well, we just can’t hover in the corridor outside Starfleet’s quarters. People would notice.”

Something like a scoff left Tom’s mouth. “If you say so. Although something tells me that more than caution is involved.”

B’Elanna frowned. She did not care for the insinuation in the pilot’s voice. And the laughter. “What are you talking about?” she demanded.

“I’m talking about your hand that’s on my butt.”

Her cheeks now flaming hot, B’Elanna quickly snatched her hand away. She had no idea that she had been . . .

“. . . week’s Security report should be ready for your perusal by the end of the day,” a familiar voice echoed. B’Elanna immediately recognized Lieutenant Tuvok, the ship’s Security Chief.

Seconds later, the Vulcan emerged from around the corner, along with Captain Janeway. Both B’Elanna and Tom pressed further into the alcove. The auburn-haired captain replied, “It looks as if you’ll be the first. Chakotay is still waiting for . . .”

The doors to Harry’s quarters slid open. A naked figure with green skin burst into the corridor, screaming at the top of his lungs. Harry. “Look at me!” he cried at the two command officers. “Ohmigod! My skin is green! I have to get to Sick Bay!” Then he raced up the corridor before Janeway or Tuvok could speak.

Laughter bubbled within B’Elanna. She had to press her face against Tom’s chest, to keep her laughter in check. B’Elanna felt his body shaking with mirth. As for the Captain and Tuvok, both stood in the middle of the corridor and exchanged shocked expressions.

“I believe that was Ensign Kim, who had just . . .,” the Vulcan officer began in a reflective tone.

Shaking her head in disbelief, Janeway interrupted. “Yes, I know who that was. I think . . . I think we should keep this little incident out of the official logs. Don’t you agree, Tuvok?”

“A very logical decision, Captain.” And the pair continued along the corridor, in Harry’s wake.

The moment Janeway and Tuvok were out of earshot, B’Elanna and Tom burst into loud laughter. “Oh God!” the former declared breathlessly. “Did you see that? Poor Starfleet! Now that was a moment I’ll never forget.”

“This ought to teach him not to play matchmaker,” Tom said between fits of laughter.

“Oh! Maybe we came down on him a little too hard. You think?” Despite her words, B’Elanna did not feel a smidgen of remorse.

And neither did Tom, it seemed. He took a deep breath. “Are you kidding? After that stunt he had pulled on us? I don’t think so. However,” he linked his arm with one of B’Elanna’s and gently steered her along the corridor, “we better get along. Harry may have realized, by now, that he’s in his birthday suit.”

The pair walked along the corridor – in the opposite direction of Harry, the Captain and Tuvok. B’Elanna noticed Tom examining his uniform. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It’s nothing. Just a hole in my uniform.” Tom paused and smiled at B’Elanna. “Thanks to you.”

The Chief Engineer’s face grew hot with embarrassment. “Sorry about that. It was the only way I could keep from laughing aloud.”

“Uh-huh. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that you got a big thrill out of it. Are you in the habit of biting someone else’s chest . . . Chief?”

B’Elanna glared at her companion. Pig! She snatched her arm away from Tom’s. “I told you that I . . .” Tom’s blue eyes twinkled with mischief. B’Elanna now felt even more embarrassed. Until she reminded herself that two could play games. She gave him a sweet smile. “Maybe I did get a thrill out of it.” Tom’s eyes now grew wide. “Of course, I got an even bigger thrill from Harry.”

Blue eyes narrowed. “Harry?”

“You know, Harry. Fresh-faced kid just over two years out of the Academy, Harry Kim. I must admit that I never realized he was so well-endo . . .”

Tom immediately interrupted. “I think I got the picture!” His face turned red, much to B’Elanna’s delight. “Of all the people! Harry Kim!”

B’Elanna allowed herself a small smile. There was nothing, she decided, more enjoyable than deflating a man’s ego. Especially one that belonged to Tom Paris. To be honest, on the matter of endowments, Tom had nothing to worry about. Not from Harry or any other man she could think of. But she would be damned if she ever told him.

THE END

“JURASSIC WORLD” (2015) Review

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“JURASSIC WORLD” (2015) Review

Being a Southern California resident and native, I have made numerous visits to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. And for the past decade, a guide for the Backlot Tour attraction has announced to visitors about the studio’s intention to produce and release a fourth film for the JURASSIC PARK movie franchise. After five years, I stopped taking these announcements seriously.

Then lo and behold, these announcements turned out to be true. Universal finally made it official last year that a fourth movie would be made and it was to star Chris Pratt. Despite this announcement, I did not make such a big deal over the matter. One . . . I simply did not care. Mind you, I am a big fan of the other three films. But fourteen years had passed between the third film and this fourth one. For me, that was ten to eleven years too long. And two, I could not see Chris Pratt in an action film in which he would have to somewhat curtail on the jokes. But when I learned about the reactions to the film overseas, I finally began to look forward to seeing it.

Set twenty-odd years after “JURASSIC PARK” and less than a decade after “JURASSIC PARK III”, “JURASSIC WORLD” takes place on Isla Nublar, the same setting as the 1993 film. There, a fully functioning dinosaur theme park called Jurassic World has operated for ten years under the ownership of Simon Masrani, CEO of the Masrani Corporation. A pair of brothers named Zach and Gray Mitchell are sent there during the winter holidays to visit their aunt Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager. Due to Claire’s busy schedule with recruiting corporate sponsors for a new attraction – a genetically modified dinosaur called Indominus rex, her assistant is tasked to act as the boys’ guide. Slightly leery about this new attraction, Masrani orders Claire to recruit the park’s Velociraptor trainer, a former U.S. Navy SEAL named Owen Grady, to assess the Indominus rex. Unfortunately, the dinosaur manages to escape his/her compound by tricking Grady and two staff members that it had made an earlier escape. And Masrani discovers from the dinosaur’s creator, Dr. Henry Wu, that the Indominus rex has the DNA of several predatory dinosaurs and modern-day animals. While Masrani orders Security Chief Vic Hoskins and the Asset Containment Unit to capture the dinosaur, Claire tries to organize the evacuation of the park and recruits Owen to help her find her nephews.

“JURASSIC WORLD” had a few problems. Actually, I had three problems with the movie. One, I wish the movie had taken its time to set up the reason behind the Mitchell brothers’ visit to the theme park. Audiences never really learn the reason behind their visit – namely an opportunity for their parents to organize their upcoming divorce – until a brief conversation between the two brothers in the middle of the film. Apparently, director Colin Trevorrow; who also co-wrote the film with Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Derek Connolly; wanted to get the brothers to Isla Nubar as soon as possible. Another aspect of the script that I found slightly troubling was the vague and confusing situation regarding Masrani Corporation, the InGen Corporation, and the Dr. Henry Wu and Vic Hoskins characters. Was there an executive or two within InGen plotting with the two men to regain the company from Masrani? What roles did the Grady trained Velociraptors play in this possible scheme? Perhaps the matter will be clear once I see the DVD version. Or perhaps it will be explained in a future movie. Also, the Owen Grady character spent most of the film reacting negatively to Hoskins’ idea of training and using Velociraptors on behalf of the U.S. military. I could understand his feelings. What I failed to understand was his reasoning for training the dinosaurs to obey his commands in the first place. Why did he engage in this profession? The movie never really explained.

Otherwise, I had no problems with “JURASSIC WORLD”. Wait . . . I take that back. My reaction to the movie was a lot more that mere tolerance. I really enjoyed the film. A lot more than I had expected. In fact, it has become one of my top favorite films for the Summer 2015 movie season. Aside from the hiccups I had mentioned above, I really enjoyed the movie’s story. The previous three movies merely gave hints – although bloody ones – that the idea of introducing the general public to genetically created dinosaurs is a major mistake. Actually, the second film, 1997’s “JURASSIC PARK: THE LOST WORLD”, was really the first time that featured a confrontation between the public (citizens of San Diego) and lethal dinosaurs (a Tyrannosaurus rex and its infant child). But that incident was nothing in compare to what happened in“JURASSIC WORLD”. When I watched Jurassic World’s guests and staff members encounter the deadly Indominus rex, flocks of flying Pteranodon and Dimorphodon, and the Mosasaurus with such disastrous results; I found myself remembering what the Ian Malcolm character had said in the first movie – “There is a problem with that island. It is an accident waiting to happen.” I could also imagine his reaction to the media reports of what happened in the theme park.

I found myself wondering about that theme park. After the incident of the first film, the John Hammond character had the good sense to ditch his plans for a theme park and realize it would be wise to keep the two islands and the dinosaurs isolated from the public. Yet, according to “JURASSIC WORLD”, Simon Masrani had been encouraged to re-institute the idea of a theme park by Hammond before the latter’s death. What made Hammond change his mind? Had Masrani managed to convince the latter that he would be able to keep that park under control? Someone had pointed out that“JURASSIC WORLD” was more about the negative effects of high finance and greed, instead of bad science. I believe it was a cautionary tale regarding both . . . along with defense contracting. I had not forgotten the clash between Owen and Hoskins over the use of the Velociraptors.

One controversy managed to spring up following the movie’s release. It had to do with the Claire Dearing character and her high-heeled shoes. There have been complaints about Claire – her uptight character and the lack of respect she seemed to generate from characters like Owen, her two nephews (who had witnessed her save Owen’s life from a Dimorphodon) and Hoskins. Only Masrani seemed to have any real respect for her. A good number of critics . . . especially male critics, seemed to have a low regard for Claire. They saw her as a regression of female characters in an action-oriented film. What was the one thing that led them to harbor this low regard for Claire? Her unwillingness to shed her high-heeled shoes once the situation on the island became dicey. Perhaps they saw her shoes as this symbol of femininity that needed to be shed, once the action started. However, actress Bryce Dallas Howard thought otherwise and insisted that she continue to wear high heels throughout the movie. This decision caused a firestorm when the movie came out and still continues to do so. Personally, I am glad Howard made this decision. I do get tired of fans, the media and the entertainment industry insisting that in order for women to be considered worthy or superior, she has to shed any outward signs of femininity other than large boobs and tight leather. Besides, she was not the only female character I have seen run for her life in high heels. Stephanie Zimbalist did it on the NBC series, “REMINGTON STEELE”.

One cannot talk about a JURASSIC PARK movie without the mention of visual effects. Personally, I found the creation of the movie’s dinosaurs – especially the Indominus rex and the Mosasaurus outstanding. I could also say the same about Ed Verreaux’s production designs for the film. I admire his creation of the theme park’s shopping area – which slightly reminded me of Universal Studios Hollywood – and the way he utilized the old sets of the 1993 movie as abandoned structures. I wish I could comment on Michael Giacchino’s score for the film. But honestly . . . I simply do not remember it. Kevin Stitt did an excellent job with his editing for the film. I was especially impressed by his handling of the Pteranodons and Dimorphodons’ attack on the park’s shopping area and the Owen-led expedition against the Indominus rex in the jungle. But I was really impressed by John Schwartzman’s cinematography – especially in the scene below:

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Amidst the crazy plot, the CGI dinosaurs and action, there is the matter of the performances featured in the movie. Personally, I had no problems with them. Perhaps I am being a bit too subtle. I really enjoyed the performances in the film.“JURASSIC WORLD” featured solid performances from Judy Greer, Omar Sy, Jake Johnson, Katie McGrath, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. The movie also featured a funny cameo by Jimmy Fallon as a video guide for the park’s Gyrosphere tour.

For me, the outstanding performances came from certain members of the cast. Vincent D’Onofrio gave an energetic, yet slightly sinister portrayal of the park’s head of security operations, Vic Hoskins. Irrfan Khan was equally energetic, yet very charming as the park’s owner, Simon Masrani. B.D. Wong made his second appearance in the movie franchise as Dr. Henry Wu, the geneticist behind the dinosaurs’ creations. Wong made a decent appearance in the 1993 movie. But his performance in “JURASSIC WORLD” revealed the character’s inability to question the consequences of his creations. More importantly, his performance gave Dr. Wu more depth and complexity. Chris Pratt did an excellent job as the movie’s leading man and Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady. Pratt effectively ditched his usual humor schtick to portray the no-nonsense Owen. But I believe that Bryce Dallas Howard gave the best performance in the movie as the park’s operation manager, Claire Dearing. Howard did an exceptional job in portraying Claire’s development from an emotionally reserved workaholic to a woman fiercely determined to keep her nephews safe at all costs . . . even if it meant wearing those much-discussed high heels throughout the entire movie.

What else can I say about “JURASSIC WORLD”? The movie’s producers (including Steven Spielberg), director Colin Trevorrow and the three other screenwriters who worked with him on the script did an excellent in keeping the JURASSIC PARK franchise alive. They were ably assisted by a talented cast led by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, and the behind-the-scenes crew that contributed to the movie’s visual style. And if I must be honest, I never thought they could do it.

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “BABYLON 5” (Season Three: “Point of No Return”)

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Three (1995-1996) of “BABYLON 5”. Created by J. Michael Straczynski, the series starred Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle and Mira Furlan:

 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “BABYLON 5” (SEASON THREE: “POINT OF NO RETURN”)

1 - 3.10 Severed Dreams

1. (3.10) “Severed Dreams” – In this outstanding episode, President Clark of Earth Alliance tries to seize control of Babylon 5 by force, forcing Sheridan and the command crew to take arms against their own government and initiating the Earth Civil War. The episode won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1997.

2 - 3.15 Interludes and Examinations

2. (3.15) “Interludes and Examinations” – Captain Sheridan struggles to gather a force against the Shadows, when the Shadow War begins in earnest. Ambassador Londo Mollari looks forward to a reunion with a past lover, and Dr. Franklin falls further into his stims addiction.

3 - 3.09 Point of No Return

3. (3.09) “Point of No Return” – When President Clark declares martial law throughout Earth Alliance, the command crew tries to stop Nightwatch from taking control of the station. Meanwhile, Ambassador Londo Mollari receives a prophecy from Emperor Turhan’s widow when she visits the station.

4 - 3.17 War Without End Part II

4. (3.17) “War Without End (Part 2)” – This is the second half of a two-part episode in which the station’s former commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, returns to participate in a mission vital to the future survival of Babylon 5 – traveling back in time to steal Babylon 4.

5 - 3.05 Voices of Authority

5. (3.05) “Voices of Authority” – Commander Susan Ivanova and Ranger Marcus Cole search for more of the First Ones with the help of Draal, while Sheridan comes under the scrutiny of the Nightwatch and Babylon 5’s new “political officer”.

“LITTLE DORRIT” (2008) Review

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“LITTLE DORRIT” (2008) Review

In my review of the 1998 miniseries, “OUR MUTUAL FRIEND”, I had stated that I was never a real fan of Victorian author, Charles Dickens. But I was willing to give the author another chance with a second viewing of the miniseries. However, I have yet to watch “OUR MUTUAL FRIEND” for a second time. Instead, I turned my attention to another miniseries based on a Dickens novel – the 2008 production of “LITTLE DORRIT”.

Based upon Dickens’s 1855-1857 serialized novel, “LITTLE DORRIT” is basically the story of a young late Georgian Englishwoman named Amy Dorrit, who spends her days earning money for the Dorrit family and looking after her proud father William, who is a long term inmate of Marshalsea Prison for Debt in London. When her employer’s son, Arthur Clennam returns from overseas to solve his family’s mysterious legacy, Amy and her family’s world is transformed for the better. And she discovers that her family’s lives and those of the Clennan family are interlinked. Considering that“LITTLE DORRIT” is a Dickens tale, one is bound to encounter a good deal of subplots. Please bear with me. I might not remember all of them. I do recall the following:

*Arthur Clennam is initially rejected by Pet Meagles, the daughter of a former business associate, due to her infatuation for artist Henry Gowan.

*John Chivery, the son of the Marshalsea Prison warden, harbors unrequited love for Amy Dorrit.

*A mysterious Englishwoman named Miss Wade, had been jilted by Henry Gowan in the past; and has now extended her hatred and resentment towards his wife, Pet Meagles and her family. She also notices their patronizing attitude toward their maid/ward, Harriet Beadle aka Tattycoram.

*Amy’s older sister, Fanny, becomes romantically involved with the step-son of wealthy businessman Mr. Merdle.

*Mr. Merdle becomes the force behind a fraudulent speculation scheme that impacts the London financial world.

*French criminal Rigaud/Blandois not only stumbles across the Clennam family secret regarding the Dorrit family, but is also recruited by Miss Wade to accompany Henry and Pet Gowran on their Italian honeymoon.

If there is one thing I can say about “LITTLE DORRIT”, it is a beautiful looking production. Four of the Emmy Awards that the miniseries won were in the technical categories. Production designer James Merifield, art director Paul Ghirardani, and set decorator Deborah Wilson all shared the Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction in a Miniseries or Movie (they shared the award with the art direction team for HBO’s “GREY GARDENS”). And honestly? They deserved that award, thanks to their outstanding re-creation of both London and Italy in the 1820s. Owen McPolin, Alan Almond and Lukas Strebel, who won the Outstanding Cinematography Emmy; contributed to that re-creation of 1820s Europe with their sharp, colorful and beautiful photography. Costume designer Barbara Kidd and costume supervisor also won Emmy awards for the beautiful, gorgeous costumes created for this production. Not only did I find the costumes beautiful, but also a perfection re-creation of the mid-1820s fashions, as depicted in the images below:

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I could go on and on about the many subplots featured in “LITTLE DORRIT”. But honestly . . . I am too exhausted to do so. The only plots that interested me were the fortunes of both the Dorrit family and Arthur Clennam, Mrs. Clennam’s secret about her husband’s past, and Mr. Merdle’s financial schemes. I thought that Emmy winning screenwriter Andrew Davies and directors Adam Smith, Dearbhla Walsh (also an Emmy winner for her direction of Episode One), and Diarmuid Lawrence did a very good job in handling these plot lines. Or tried his best. His adaptation of the rise and fall of the Dorrit family’s fortunes was probably the best thing about “LITTLE DORRIT”. This was especially effective in plot lines that revolved around Amy Dorrit’s inability to adjust to her new status as the daughter of a wealthy man and especially, William Dorrit’s inabilities to move past his memories of the Marshalsea Prison. The subplot regarding the Dorrit family’s ties to the Merdle family also struck me as very effective. Fanny Dorrit’s relationship with Merdle’s stepson, Edmund Sparkler proved to be one of the funniest and more satisfying subplots in “LITTLE DORRIT”. And the subplot regarding Mr. Merdle’s financial schemes not only effected both the Dorrit family and Arthur Clennam’s fortunes in an effective way, it also strongly reminded me of the circumstances that led to the international community’s current economic situation.

However, there were subplots that did not strike me as that effective. I wish I could solely blame Charles Dickens. But I cannot. Davies and the three directors have to take some of the blame for not making some improvements to these subplots, when they had the chance to do so. The subplot regarding the Meagles family, their servant “Tattycoram” and Miss Wade struck me as a disaster. I found it poorly handled, especially the narrative regarding the fate of “Tattycoram”. In the end, nothing really came from Miss Wade’s resentment of Henry Cowan, the Meagles and especially her relationship with “Tattycoram”. I am also a little confused at the financial connection between the Clennam and Dorrit families. Could someone explain why an affair between Arthur’s father and some dancer would lead to a possible inheritance for Amy Dorrit? Many critics have tried to explain Dickens’ creation of the French villain Monsieur Rigaud. No explanation can erase my dislike of the character or its addition to the subplots involving the Clennam/Dorrit connection and the Gowans’ honeymoon. I realize that Rigaud was Charles Dickens’ creation. But it seemed a pity that Davies and the three directors did nothing to improve the use of Rigaud . . . or eliminate the character altogether. Aside from killing Jeremiah Flintwinch’s twin brother, intimidating other characters and blackmailing Mrs. Clennam, he really did nothing as a villain.

If there is one thing I have no complaints regarding “LITTLE DORRIT”, it is the excellent performances found in the production. I honestly have no complaints about the performances in the miniseries. I can even say this about those characters, whose portrayals by the writers that I found troubling. And yes, I am referring to Andy Serkis and Freema Agyeman’s performances as Rigoud and “Tattycoram”. Both gave excellent performances, even if I did not care how Dickens, Davies or the directors handled their characters. Emma Pierson, an actress I have never heard of, gave a superb and very entertaining peformance as Fanny Dorrit, Amy’s ambitious and rather blunt older sister. I would have say that Pierson’s performance struck me as the funniest in the miniseries. I was amazed at how intimidating Eddie Marsan looked at the rent collector, Mr. Pancks. Yet, Marsan went beyond his superficial appearance to portray one of the most compassionate, yet energetic characters in the production. I was also impressed by Russell Tovey’s portrayal of the love-sick John Chivery, who harbored unrequited love for Amy Dorrit. Tovey managed to give a very intense performance, without going over-the-top. And I found that quite an accomplishment.

However, there are a handful of performances that really impressed me. Two of them came from the leads Claire Foy and Matthew McFadyen. On paper, the characters of Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam struck me as boring and one-dimensional. They were simply too goody two-shoes. But somehow, both Foy and McFadyen managed to inject a great deal of fire into their roles, making them not only interesting, but allowing me to care for them a great deal. Another outstanding performance came from Judy Parfitt, who portrayed Arthur’s guilt-ridden and cold mother, Mrs. Clennam. But instead of portraying the character as a one-note monstrous mother, Parfitt conveyed a good deal of Mrs. Clennam’s guilt regarding her husband’s will and inner emotional struggles over the memories of her marriage and what Arthur really meant to her. Another outstanding performance came from Tom Courtenay, who portrayed the vain and insecure William Dorrit. In fact, I would have to say that he gave the most complex and probably the best performance in the entire production. Courtenay managed to create contempt I felt toward his character with skillful acting, yet at the same time, he made William Dorrit so pathetic and sympathetic. I am amazed that he did not receive a nomination or acting award for his performance.

I now come back to that earlier question. Did “LITTLE DORRIT” improve my opinion of Charles Dickens as a writer? Not really. Although I cannot deny that it is a beautiful looking production. Some of the subplots not only struck me as interesting, but also relevant to today’s economic situation. And the miniseries featured some outstanding performances from a cast led by Claire Foy and Matthew McFayden. But some of the other subplots, which originated in Dickens’ novel struck me as either troubling or unimpressive. So . . . I am not quite a fan of his. Not yet. But despite its flaws, I am a fan of this 2008 adaptation of his 1855-1857 novel.

“With Harry Kim’s Compliments” [R] – 1/2

Here is a humorous story set during Season 3 of “Star Trek Voyager” about Harry Kim’s efforts to act as matchmaker for his two best friends:

“WITH HARRY KIM’S COMPLIMENTS”

RATING: [R] For sexual innuendos.
SUMMARY: Harry Kim decides to play matchmaker with a shower and his two best friends. Set between Season 3’s“Alter Ego” and “Coda”.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B’Elanna, Harry and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be. Dammit!

———-

“WITH HARRY KIM’S COMPLIMENTS”

Part 1

Tom Paris strolled along the corridors of Deck Four, humming to himself. He had just finished a double shift on the Bridge. And at the moment, he looked forward to spending quality time in his quarters. Underneath a nice shower with hot running water. And a meal, along with a long rest, would make a great follow-up.

His quarters loomed ahead. Tom punched in his entry code and walked inside. Ah! Home at last! Without any thought, he began removing his uniform. Once he removed the last stitch of clothing, Tom entered his bathroom and stepped into the shower. “Computer,” he ordered, “begin shower with hot water.”

Instead of water slucing down his body, Tom heard the computer reply, “Unable to comply. The water system for the shower is malfunctioning.”

“WHAT??” Tom cried out in outrage.

The computer dryly responded, “Please restate the question.”

“Computer . . .” Tom took a few deep breaths. ‘Calm down, Paris. It’s just a computer.’ Now he felt calm and collected. “Computer, how long has the water shower been down?”

The computer replied, “The ship’s water system has malfunctioned since 14:23 hours.”

In other words, for the past six hours. Great! Tom heaved an exasperated sigh. So much for a nice, hot shower. It looked as if he would have to settle for a sonic shower. And Tom hated them. “Computer,” he continued, “begin sonic shower.”

To his surprise, the computer announced, “Unable to comply. The sonic shower is malfunctioning.”

What the hell? Now, Tom was in a fix. How in the hell was he supposed to clean himself, with both showers not operating? Maintaining a tight rein on his temper, the pilot asked the computer how long the sonic shower has been malfunctioning. Since 14:23 hours – like the water shower.

Tom left the shower stall and snatched his uniform jacket to activate his combadge. “Paris to Engineering.”

“Engineering here.” The voice belonged to Ensign Carl Ashmore, one of the engineers under B’Elanna Torres’ command. “I gather you’re calling about your shower?”

“That’s right. What the hell is going on?”

Ashmore explained that the ship’s shower systems were malfunctioning. “None of the showers from Decks Two to Five aren’t working. Also Decks Eight and Nine. And only the sonic showers from Decks Ten to Fifteen are operating.”

“Great!” Tom retorted. “What the hell am I supposed to . . .” He paused, recalling Ashmore’s words. That meant the showers on Decks Six and Seven were fully operational. And Tom personally knew one crewman with quarters on Deck Six. “Never mind, Carl. I believe I know how to solve my problem. Paris out.” After severing his connection to the engineer, Tom activated his combadge once more. “Paris to Kim.” Sounds of grunting reached his ears. What the hell was Harry doing? “Paris to Kim. Harry, can you . . .?”

“I hear you, Tom. What is it?”

Tom asked, “What the hell is going on? Where are you?”

“Jeffries Tube 23C. Working on the internal systems,” Harry replied. “What do you need?”

“A shower, buddy. Neither my water or sonic shower is working. Can I use yours? All showers on Decks Six and Seven are operational.”

Harry responded through more grunts, “Be . . . my guest.”

“Great! Paris out.”

The moment he tapped off his combadge, Tom donned a T-shirt and stretched pants. Happy that he would be getting that shower after all, the helmsman strolled out of his quarters, whistling through his teeth.

* * * *

“Hey Starfleet!”

Harry jumped at the sound of B’Elanna’s voice and bumped his head against the tube’s wall. He had been staring at the panel before him, for the past five minutes, wondering where the hell he went wrong in repairing the conduits that maintained the ship’s shower systems.

Rubbing his head, Harry glanced at the tube’s entrance and found Voyager’s chief engineer in a crouching position. “Hey B’Elanna!” he greeted in a tired voice.

“How long have you been here, Starfleet?”

A heavy sigh left Harry’s mouth. “It seems like forever. Damn shower systems! I can’t get the damn thing to work properly. Only the showers on Decks Six and Seven are completely operational.”

B’Elanna cleared her throat. “Speaking of Deck Six, isn’t your shower working?”

Harry saw what was coming. “Yeah, it is. Why?”

“Well, my shift ends in a few mintues,” B’Elanna continued. “And systems malfunctions or not, I’m beat. I really need a shower and rest. So . . .”

This was news. B’Elanna leaving her post before the completion of repairs. Harry realized that she must really be beat. As for her using his shower . . . well, there was the problem of Tom. Who knew how long the helmsman might be using his shower? Harry opened his mouth to tell B’Elanna about Tom, but suddenly changed his mind.

“What is it?” B’Elanna asked, frowning at the younger man.

Should he tell B’Elanna? Harry knew he should. But he also remembered what Neelix told him about what happened at the luau, some ten days ago. The Talaxian cook had described the look on Tom’s face after Vorik had usurped B’Elanna’s time during the party. Harry had been well aware of the attraction between his two best friends. And their frustrating attempts to deny their feelings. Perhaps an accidental meeting in his quarters would help strengthen the bond between the two. And so with matchmaking in mind, Harry set about a course that no sane person in his or her right mind would attempt.

Harry finally answered, “Nothing. Go right ahead, Maquis. Be my guest. It’ll be a while before I’m probably off-duty.”

B’Elanna flashed her friend a smile. “Thanks, Harry. You’re a prince.” She crawled away from the tube’s entrance.

Smiling himself, Harry sat on his hunches and returned his attention to the console. If only he were a fly on a wall. He would give his right arm to witness the fireworks between the chief engineer and the pilot. Harry had no idea that in the end, he would sacrifice something a lot more important than a limb.

* * * *

A shower at last! B’Elanna could barely wait. Many of the ship’s systems had been crashing all day. With the exception of the showers, B’Elanna, the Engineering staff and the Operations division, managed to repair them all.

After nearly pulling a double shift, all she required . . . needed was a refreshing shower and a long rest. Two years ago, B’Elanna would have insisted on remaining on duty until the last repair was completed. But that was two years ago, when she was an inexperienced division head. It took her staff, especially her second-in-command, Joe Carey, to teach her the joys of delegation. She could deal with working during a double shift. But beyond that . . . well, she was a wiser and older woman. Let poor Harry deal with the remaining repairs. Besides, the ship’s system was technically a job usually assigned to the Operations Division.

The turbolift halted on Deck Six. B’Elanna stepped out and made her way along the corridor. In fact, she nearly skipped all the way to Harry’s quarters. And she did not care if any passing crewman saw her.

Still feeling high over her escape from Engineering, B’Elanna punched in Harry’s entry codes and continued inside. The first thing she noticed was the sound of running water. The shower. B’Elanna frowned. Why in the hell was Harry’s shower running? Did he . . .? B’Elanna immediately spoke up. “Computer, locate Ensign Kim.”

“Ensign Kim is located in Jeffries Tube 23C Alpha,” the computer’s voice responded. Which only meant one thing – Harry had left his shower running all day, the dumb idiot. Talk about ration credits pouring down the drain. For her friend’s generosity, B’Elanna decided to donate a few extra credits to his account. Meanwhile, she might as well take advantage of the running water.

B’Elanna removed her boots and peeled off her uniform. Completely nude, she strode into Harry’s bathroom and opened the shower door. A loud cry escaped her mouth. B’Elanna found herself facing Tom Paris – wet, naked and fully frontal.

“B’Elanna?” Tom’s blue eyes grew wide with surprise. “What the hell are you doing here?”

To stunned to speak, B’Elanna surrendered to panic and proceeded to slam the shower door, shut. Unfortunately, Tom had decided at that moment to stick out an arm and the door slammed against the protruding limb. “AAAUGH!” The pilot cried out in pain.

“Tom! Are you hurt?” Forgetting about his naked state, a concerned B’Elanna grabbed his arm and began to examine it. She found a purple bruise between his elbow and his wrist. Without thinking, she began to rub it. “Is that better?” she crooned. “Do you need a dermal regenerator?”

The pilot’s eyes grew even wider. “Uh, B’Elanna?”

“What?” B’Elanna stared at Tom, who looked very uncomfortable. Almost stiff. What the hell was the matter . . .? For some unexplained reason, her eyes slid downward and noticed Tom’s swelling member. Then she remembered. He was naked. Completely. And when she saw him staring at her chest – her bare chest – she realized that she was also naked. “Kahless!” B’Elanna cried out, immediately dropping Tom’s arm. “I have to . . . I have to go!” The half-Klingon woman turned on her heels and quickly fled the bathroom.

* * * *

“B’Elanna!”

Tom cried after the fleeing woman. “B’Ela. . .” As he stepped out of the shower, he nearly slipped on the wet floor.Goddammit! “B’Elanna!”

Tom took one step toward the doorway and realized that he was still nude. He reached for a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he reached for another towel and scurried into the living area. And just in time. He spotted B’Elanna, shapely bottom included, scampering out of the door. With no clothes on. “B’Elanna, you don’t have any . . .”

The half-Klingon stopped in her tracks, noticed the state of her undress with a gasp and bolted back inside. Tom quickly turned away to spare her any further embarrassment. “Uh, B’Elanna? Here’s a towel you might want to use,” he said, holding out the object.

Growling a quick “Thanks,” B’Elanna snatched the towel from Tom’s hand. “By the way Paris,” she added, “what the hell are you doing here?”

Paris? “You haven’t called me Paris in over a . . .” The word stuck in Tom’s throat as he turned around. And found the towel wrapped around B’Elanna’s torso – accentuating every shapely . . . ‘Don’t go there, Tommy Boy! Just don’t!’

“Tom!” B’Elanna added in a sharp voice. “You haven’t explained what the hell you’re doing here!”

Tom replied, “Taking a shower, of course. Harry gave me permission to use his shower.”

“What are you talking about? He gave me permission!” B’Elanna’s eyes grew wide. “Oh my God! The big idiot! I bet he planned all this!”

Recalling the fatigue in Harry’s voice, Tom doubted it. He suspected that the Operations chief had merely suffered a lapse in memory. Still, who was he to complain when it gave him the opportunity to see B’Elanna Torres in all her glo . . . ‘Stop it, Paris!’ Tom inwardly reprimanded himself.

“What’s wrong?” B’Elanna’s voice cut through Tom’s thoughts. “Why are you staring at me like . . .?” She paused and glanced at her towel. Red spots tinged her cheeks. “I better get out of here.” The chief engineer gathered her belongings.

Tom rushed toward the departing engineer. “B’Elanna! No! Wait! You don’t have to leave now. You can . . .” he grabbed her arm, “. . . take the shower, first. Please.”

The half-Klingon paused, seemingly unaware of Tom’s hand on her bare arm. He noticed that up close, her eyes seemed to focus upon everything, except him. B’Elanna shook her head. “Uh, that’s okay. At least my sonic shower is still working.”

“Perhaps, but you were obviously in the mood for a water shower. Why else would you be here? Look, I just barely got started on my shower, when you, uh . . .” Tom stumbled a bit. “Well, you know. Just go ahead and use it. Be my guest.” He gently steered the engineer toward Harry’s bathroom. “Ladies first.”

Dark brown eyes grew wide with disbelief. “Ladies?” However, B’Elanna did not reject Tom’s offer. She dumped her clothes and boots on a nearby chair and headed for the shower. Once the bathroom door closed behind her, Tom dumped himself unceremoniously on the sofa and sighed. Green or not, Ensign Harry Kim had a lot to answer for.

END OF Part 1